March 8 is International Women’s Day, and while there’s never a wrong time to platform women in the music industry, Taiwan’s artists are kind of turning it right now. In our constant search for interesting sounds, we’ve always got our ears to the ground and our feet through the door of every live music house in Taipei. Below, we’ve compiled five of our Taiwan favorites to take center stage over the past few years. So whether you’re just taking an initial dive into the scene or just want to listen to something new, pause whatever you’re playing and check out the talent.
1. Whyte (?te壞特)
Whyte’s story is nothing if not allegorical of the millennial college student. Always one to work hard and aim for the goals others had set her, she found herself midway through her degree without the faintest idea of what she wanted to do with her life. Music, she told Elle, was what enabled her to work through the brain fog. The singer names Amy Winehouse and Lianne de Havas as some of her inspirations, and this is evident in her debut album “A Bedroom of One’s Own,” for which she won Best New Artist at the 2021 Golden Melody Awards. We don’t know about you, but we get strong Lofi Girl vibes.
With her sultry voice and quirky retro-leaning style, 9m88 is the kind of artist that’s left a lasting impression on you before you’ve reached the first chorus. A graduate of the prestigious Taipei design school Shih Chien University, 9m88 cut her teeth at The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City, where she perfected her delightfully cool n’ casual musical style. Her aptly-titled debut album Beyond Mediocrity is a sweetly soulful blend of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and Japanese city pop influences that landed her “Best New Artist” at the 2020 GINAs, Taiwan’s premier indie music awards.
Shi Shi (孫盛希)
Some artists just make you want to pick up a hairbrush and start pouring your heart out in front of the mirror. Shi Shi is one of those artists. The Taiwanese-Korean singer first made it big as a contestant on the Taiwanese talent show Chinese Million Star, really solidifying her stardom three years later with a Golden Melody Award for Best New Artist. A captive storyteller, Shi Shi draws on her own life experiences to write her repertoire of powerhouse ballads and sunny acoustic melodies. We love “Never Ending Rain” (雨不停), a soulful R&B-inflected balad released at the end of last year.
Julia Wu (吳卓源)
It’s quite fitting the Julia’s second album is called 5am because she clearly doesn’t sleep. The singer has released no fewer than six albums since 2017, bridging soul, R&B, hip-hop, lo-fi, jazz, and pop. Rising to prominence as a contestant on the Australian X Factor, she returned to Taiwan in 2017, reportedly having to learn to sing in Chinese while producing her first album. 2622 and 1994 are two great albums for getting to know Julia’s music which includes slow-burner soul, upbeat nineties jams — and everything in between.
Major Abao fangirl vibes over here — ever since we sat down with her to talk about her story making Paiwan music. Since the release of her 2016 album, Vavayan, the indigenous singer’s diverse discography of R&B, funk, pop, and dance hits have helped bring her native language to listeners across Taiwan and abroad. Originally a Mandopop singer in the early 2000s as part of the act Abao & Brandy, Abao was inspired to return to the scene after making a folk album with her mother and grandmother. More recently, her 2019 album Kinakaian (“Mother Tongue” in Paiwan) won best album at both the 2020 GINAs and the Golden Melody Awards — making her the first indigenous artist to do so. Listen to powerhouse tracks like “tjakudain” (“What Can We Do?”), “Sa’icelen” (“Go for It”), and “Thank You” to get a sense of her range as an artist — or you know, just binge the whole album.